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Ignoring the Mistreatment of Women

Case study mistreatment of women

In the spring of 2021, a prominent investment bank incurred a loss of US$5.5 billion relating to the default of a capital management firm with which it had a loan relationship. 

As a result of the scandal, the bank dismissed its head of investment banking. However, that was not the end of the bad publicity. It was soon revealed that the bank had been investigating his behaviour towards women at the time of the fallout from the default and had analysed the culture of some sections of the organisation as a result.  

This case study explores the allegations against the head of investment banking and highlights what companies can learn about the benefits of acting swiftly on reports from employees. 

Background

In 2020, someone contacted the bank’s anonymous whistleblowing line to make a complaint against the head of investment banking and his team. The complaint related to the treatment of women by the accused and his team, and although the full extent of the complaint made has remained private, one issue was reported.  

It referred to golf events that he had organised in the USA several years before. These client events took place at a golf club where women were not allowed to eat in the main dining room. Instead, both female clients and employees were made to dine in an annexe, away from the men.  

It is understood that the bank had used the venue previously and that the head of investment banking organised at least one other event at that venue even after some of the attendees complained to him and the bank about the arrangements.  

However, the company did not investigate the situation until the complaint was made in 2020.

What happened next?

Following the 2020 complaint, the bank entrusted an external law firm with investigating the case. The probe found that the accused had violated the bank’s code of conduct, which states that employees must be respectful, ethical and professional at all times. In addition, the code stipulates, line managers can face disciplinary action if they fail to properly supervise employees who report to them. 

The investigation discovered that the head of investment banking had committed misconduct that was serious enough to warrant a termination of his contract under the bank’s internal rating system. It is not known whether this ruling of the investigation was a result of the golf days case or the other unreported complaints.  

The bank was still formulating its response to the investigation when the capital management firm defaulted. The head of investment banking was dismissed for his role in that affair before he could be punished for misconduct, although the bank confirmed that the misconduct was at least partially behind its decision to withhold US$18 million in compensation that he had been owed.  ignoring-the-mistreatment-of-women-2

The result 

The bank suffered reputational damage by failing to act when initial complaints were made about the golf days. Had it acted more swiftly, it could have taken control of the narrative and not experienced the leaking of information to the press and subsequent expensive external investigation.  

What can we learn from the case?

Developing a speak-up culture is important in any organisation. Being seen to be open to complaints and willing to work together to make the workplace safe and comfortable for all is a key weapon in the battle against misconduct. If the bank had acted immediately on the reports, it could have instilled the right kind of culture and benefited from this dialogue with the people who can spot and help stop misconduct early.    

The bank did have a whistleblowing system that eventually led to an investigation based on a report, but the investigation and conclusion took a long time to complete. This is one reason why whistleblowing reports in EU member states, based on the EU Whistleblowing Directive, require investigators to report back within three months.  

Having a system in place to look into complaints in good time can help the organisation eradicate misconduct before it becomes endemic.  

How IntegrityLog helps

IntegrityLog is an online whistleblowing reporting tool for businesses that makes it easy for people to make confidential reports. It maintains data protection in line with GDPR. The easy-to-use dashboard keeps investigating teams on target to meet their deadlines. Request a demo of IntegrityLog or request a 14-day free trial today to find out how it can help you eradicate misconduct and prevent reputational damage.  

 

References and further reading

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